Vladica Dicic, an ethnic Serb, has befriended an Albanian who visits regularly, describing him as her ‘third son’.
For a long time, the path leading to the abandoned village of Vagnes in eastern Kosovo has only been used by Fadil Rama.
Twice a week, he travels by car from his nearby village of Strezovce, two kilometres away, to support Vladica Dicic, a vulnerable 92-year-old woman and the only resident of Vagnes.
The gesture symbolises cohesion – Rama is an Albanian and Dicic is an ethnic Serb.
Inter-ethnic tensions and prejudice have not prevented their relationship from growing.
„I’m going to an old Serb woman named Vladica to give her food,“ Rama tells Al Jazeera, as he drives down the dirt path to her home.
Vagnes village, where a picturesque Orthodox church remains, has been deserted since the early 2000s; there is overgrown grass on rural roads.
Even when the village was populated, it was a quiet place, with about 20 people.
Rama’s last visit was three days ago. Each time he approaches her house, he fears the worst and hopes for the best.
As Rama lays out the food he brought her on her table – bread, soup, bananas and some halva dessert, Dicic showers him with thanks.
„May God help him, he visits me. I don’t want to separate him from my sons. My sons are Djoka and Slobodan, and [he is] my third,“ she said.
„You see [thanks to God], you are my third. You bring me everything.“
Her son Slobodan, whose wife is unwell, lives in Kamenica – about a 20-minute drive away, while Djoka moved further, to Serbia.
The municipality of Kamenica provided the family with social housing, but Dicic refused to leave the home where she had spent her life, so was left alone in the village.
„There’s no one here,“ she said.
What she misses the most is company, so partings are always hard.
„I’m leaving but I’ll come again, goodbye,“ Rama says. „Don’t cry, I’ll come, don’t be afraid of anything.“
In three days, Rama will return to this abandoned village.
„Thank you so much for coming. Thank you God,“ Dicic says, unable to hold back the tears in her eyes.
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